Sunday, April 26, 2009

Post No. 109: It All Depends on the Price of Your Ticket on the Train


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

There’s a good and bad side to everything.

Including conduct and relationships.

(Are you aware the largest source of violence against women is not strangers, against whom one might use a gun, but from their “loved ones,” who they know?)

The Logistician is the only guy we know who takes dangerous vacations.

Like walking the back streets of Rio amid warnings of “the Mafioso.” Or scurrying from Caracas just before riots resulted in 300 deaths. Then there was cruising in the Adriatic when the U.S. bombed Libya.

Some brave, macho guy? No. (Stupid is more likely.)

His problem? Curiosity.

About any and every thing. And open to all points of view.

He suspects that how one views the world, and what they value, depends on where they’ve been, what they know, and what they’re willing to experience.

As an engineer and a lawyer, he had to appreciate all sides of many issues. He had to find the facts, not just those which advanced his goals.

He learned that advocating a position, which was patently disingenuous or specious, detracted from the power of your advocacy, and made others question your motives, if not your professionalism.

Rightly or wrongly, he applied that principle to all things in the Universe, and thought that others did also.

But it now appears that we either live in a new environment, or the Logistician is just waking up to reality.

Many have figured out that drawing lines in the sand, making specious arguments, if not telling out right lies, and resisting the views of others, works. Especially while pushing emotional buttons.

For someone who learned to argue the merits of a position, and not their own belief system, this is proving to be a very troubling revelation.

Today it appears that if one does the Nikita, pounds the desk, speaks at a fever pitch, and exudes “passion,” one will attract attention. And perhaps even a lot of followers.

That may be good. May be bad.

We almost named this piece, “Both Sides Equally Wrong on Most Issues.”

Why? When Einstein was exploring “simultaneity,” or the simultaneous occurrence of events (and its relationship to relativity), he asked, “How do we know two events are simultaneous?”

He provided this mental example. Lightning strikes to one’s left, and a separate strike occurs the same distance to the right. To the person standing in the middle, the light from both strikes will be perceived as reaching the person at the same time.

The observer will consequently view the events as “simultaneous.”

Next, imagine a very, very fast moving train. Lighting strikes the front, and a separate strike hits the back, when an observer, standing beside the track, is in the middle of the span of the train.

Again, the observer would consider these “simultaneous.”

Then Einstein threw us a curve ball.

He asked us to imagine a woman sitting on the train, in the middle passenger car, when lightning strikes both the front and rear of the train.

From her perspective, they would no longer be simultaneous events. Moving in the direction of the front end of the train, she would perceive two, separate, and distinct strikes.

And so we thought, how we view the world, and the positions of others, depends on where we sit on the train.

When it comes to considering the behavior of others, or formulating solutions to problems, we should recognize that others are located in different cars on the train.

And that their perceptions are equally valid.

Bill Bernbach, founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach and Father of the last meaningful creative revolution, famously kept a scrap of paper in his wallet. Upon reaching an impasse with clients about his radical approach to advertising, he would pull it out.

On same Bill had reminded himself that, “Perhaps he’s right.”

As we speed toward that stalled R.V. straddling the track down the road, we need the input and contributions of all observers, not just those in any one car.

Like Mr. Bernbach, we need to put ideology aside in favor of pragmatism, when the logical outcome of inter-railroad employee fighting and a bad decision might be a massive train wreck.

Rigid adherence to one’s position may work on a personal level.

However, it significantly complicates collaboration, and has the potential to distract us from reaching common goals to our collective benefit.

5 comments:

  1. A choice between pragmatism, on the one hand, and ideology, on the other, is a choice over which all the demons in Hell rejoice. The task is to learn to know the Good, and to do the Good, regardless of whether it "works" and regardless of whether it neatly dovetails into some formal philosophical contruct.

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  2. People of all types of ideological beliefs can pursue their goals through pragmatic means. "Getting something done" is a concept separate and apart from the concept of "Good." The concepts of "pursuit or means," "motivation," "morality," "goal," "morality of the means to achieve", and "morality of the goal" are all separate and distinct issues, which sometimes merge into one another, or potentially conflict with one another.

    More importantly, people from many widely varying points of view and ideologies can join forces to collaboratively pursue the achievement of goals which are "Good" for the common benefit. The way I interpret the author's premise, that doesn't necessarily present a choice, in the sense of either / or, conflict, or mutually inconsistent or incompatible concepts.

    For some issues, such as going to war, torture, the death penalty, it might. However, for most day-to-day issues for a civilized society,

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  3. Important to consider, Good is a relative term, as is bad. Say a man is hit by a bolt of lightning, using your example (so to speak) and is killed, this would no doubt be a bad thing, to him and those who knew him, on the other hand if that man was responsible for the death of your child or a loved one would this not become a "good" thing in your eyes?
    More taxes (another example) good for the economy? if you are a politician yes this is good; it provides more funds for what you need, but to the tax payer it is another expense, which would need to be considered in your budget

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  4. There is a distinction to be made between "bad" and "evil." Bad things happen in the material world. Evil things, however, are the result of human will, not of natural forces. Evil things always involve a choice, or a series of choices, having been made that could have been made otherwise. One can't make an analogy between, for instance, a decision to torture and a lightening strike.

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  5. There is a distinction to be made between "bad" and "evil." Bad things happen in the material world. Evil things, however, are the result of human will, not of natural forces. Evil things always involve a choice, or a series of choices, having been made that could have been made otherwise. One can't make an analogy between, for instance, a decision to torture and a lightening strike.

    ReplyDelete

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